Canada Must End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Canada Must End Fossil Fuel Subsidies

The season of Lent is once again upon us. For some, it is a time of sacrifice and repentance, while others use it as a nudge to get back on track with New Year’s resolutions.

When we first began to develop Give it up for the Earth! – CPJ’s Lenten climate campaign –  it prompted me to think seriously about my personal Lenten journey. Despite having worked in environmental law and policy on and off for over 20 years, reflecting on my carbon footprint in the context of Lent led me to a deeper sort of engagement.

In 2017, I decided to “give up” overpackaged goods, and, as much as possible to purchase food in bulk, using reusable jars and bins. Over the last year, I’ve managed to maintain this practice to a large extent. Doing so fed into a larger conversation in our home about “stuff” – how much we have, where we get it, and what kinds of practices our purchasing supports.

Increasingly, I’m prioritizing quality over quantity, adopting a “buy it once” sort of philosophy when it comes to clothing and household goods. I also make a lot of things myself, and when I do, I endeavour to only create with ethically-produced, sustainable materials.

All of this comes from an understanding of integral ecology – the interconnectedness of all things – and a recognition that as humans we are a part of the Earth community. Our well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of the planet.

The way we spend our money reflects what we deem important. What we buy and where we invest are a reflection of our values and priorities.

This type of values discussion informed the divestment movement in recent years. It has led to university divestment campaigns and sustainable investment decisions taken by diverse faith communities.

It follows that if our spending reflects what we value, the same is true of government spending.

Since the climate summit in 2015, our federal government has repeated declared it commitment to climate action. True, some steps have been taken to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but there are still problems with Canadian climate and energy policy. Among the most egregious are the subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

Through a series of tax breaks and direct grants, the federal government continues to provide $1.6 billion in public funds to oil and gas companies each year.

Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Julie Gelfand notes that, “inefficient subsidies to the fossil fuel sector encourage wasteful consumption, undermine efforts to address climate change, and discourage investment in clean energy sources.”

Canada has repeatedly promised to end these subsidies; our government knows that it is the right thing to do. Now it’s time for Canada to follow through and make financial decisions that move us closer to our national emissions-reduction goals. It’s a tremendous opportunity to better align Canadian policy with the Paris Agreement and to provide climate leadership on the world stage.

That is why Give it up for the Earth! is calling on the Canadian federal government to end all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry right away. The $1.6 billion saved annually can then be invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and skills development for workers currently employed in the oil and gas sector. This would help put Canada on course for a just transition to clean energy by 2050.

It is critically important that we, as citizens and people of faith, think long and hard about how our day-to-day decisions affect the fate of creation. At the same time, we need to recognize that broader changes are needed to achieve the scale of emissions reductions required to address climate change.

This Lent, I hope you’ll join me in calling for more federal climate action through Give it up for the Earth!

It isn’t too late to join Give it up for the Earth! Visit to make your commitment to reduce your personal GHG emissions and urge the government of Canada to end all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and set our country on a course for a just transition to clean energy by 2050. Over 130 faith communities across Canada are already participating.

Karri is CPJ's Senior Policy Analyst.


Submitted by George Yntema on
It is now 2018 and the time has come to cut all subsidies for fossil fuels. I realize it takes time to eliminate especially coal subsidies but this would be a good start.

Submitted by Alan Herbert on
Karri: in order to afford a home on a limited retirement income we live in a rural area 100km from Ottawa. That means driving to the city for many things we need that cannot be obtained in our small village. Plus we need a 4wd vehicle to even get out of our driveway in winter conditions. We would love to go fossil fuel free with an electric vehicle but the options are very limited, expensive, have insufficient range and no charge stations, or even non-existent for rural dwellers. Most of what we see written only really applies to city dwellers. Many of our church members have lived here all their lives and cannot afford to move to the city, nor want to. Has CPJ thought about solutions for rural folk who do not have public transport options?

Submitted by Karri on
Thank you, Alan (nice to hear from you)! You make some really good points. I understand that going completely fossil fuel free continues to be out of reach for many, especially given the way our energy and transportation systems are structured. Still, we believe that it is essential for our government to shift policy so that it better aligns with international climate goals. As for options for folks in rural areas, I bet you're already doing a number of things! Ideas include growing some of your own food -- and using collected rainwater on the garden, composting food, buying less and second hand as much as possible, using reusable containers and buying food in bulk, eating less meat, hanging clothes to dry, and keeping your home cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer so as to reduce energy use, for example. Any and all efforts in the direction of reducing energy use are welcome, AND we must all continue to call on the government to make changes to remove some of the barriers to more sustainable lifestyles.

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